5 days - May 2019
Short break in our South African trip to discover a small country enclaved in South Africa- Lesotho.
This Kingdom was born from the unification of the Sotho clans under King Moshoeshoe in order to fight against the Zulus attacks and the attempt of colonization from the Dutch pushed back partly thanks to the English protectorate that the king asked for to protect the Kingdom.
Thus the kingdom has never been part of South Africa and locals are proud enough to remind us that Lesotho has never experienced apartheid.
We leave South Africa and its beautiful tarmac roads by the Giant Castle Reserve (we saw zebra!) to cross our first land border in Africa. Nothing easier except when Cédric and the customs officer who entered into negotiations to exchange me, South-African sense of humor ...
The contrast with South Africa was striking: here we can see only very few cars, huge holes in the road (built by the Chinese in exchange for access and exploitation of all the resources...) and much more life and street vendors. On the other hand, very few small street restaurants (or any restaurants for that matter).
We had the feeling of coming back 100 years in the past. The "toilets" are in the middle of the land in a small hut, children and women are on chores to fetch water from the well, people leave in small huts and men move around in donkey (we were also offered a ride on a Donkey, uber Donkey soon?!).
Another striking contrast: there is very little infrastructure for tourists and the few existing accommodations are lodges, really expensive. We stayed for five nights between the Maliba Lodge and Semonkong Lodge, in really comfortable rooms.
Lesotho is the only state in the world whose entire territory rises above 1,400m above sea level, explaining the really cold nights, warmed by the fireplace in our rooms, here there is no heating! The altitude will give the country its nickname: Kingdom in the sky.
Our four days’ program is easy to guess: hiking!
We start with the discovery of Tsehlanyane National Park. High green mountains, rivers flowing, waterfalls and us alone in the park! We saw the park under all its aspects because ... we got lost! 3 hours trying to find our way back, the path on apps stops net, Cédric has to read a topographic map with all the reliefs (not the greatest success btw!) and we try all options through tall grass. We came out with many scratches before the sun goes down. What an adventure.
Next step, the village of Semonkong. It is Sunday and the locals have put on their best clothes, high heels, costumes of various bright colors, to go to the Church. It denotes with the surroundings and makes us laugh a lot!
In this small village lost in the middle of the mountains, no cars, tracks full of holes, many people on the back of a donkey, very welcoming and joking all the time.
Outside of Sunday and the church, forget your Stan Smith and your Chanel bag to show off, here you put on your most beautiful blanket and your hood or hat which each reflects your place in society and your status.
. . . .
The reason we came to this village: discover the beautiful Maletsunyane waterfalls. To get to them, an hour of walking through the village, many greetings and smiles exchanged, men with their blankets, hoods and moving around in donkey, the ladies carrying objects on their head.
The waterfalls are incredible! 200 meters high, diving into the green canyon. We stayed in front of this natural phenomenon for more than two hours, blown away. And again, we are alone in front of this show!
It's time to go back to South Africa and on the road we had our first attempt at corruption from a policeman, something we had only saw in Asia and Mexico so far . Police barrage, we stop, two women in uniform ignore us, a man approaches and shows us his card (fake?) And asks us to pay him somes drink. We politely refuse and we attract the attention of the other police officers who seem a little more legitimate and we leave. Fake, real policeman? We'll never know.
This will not impact our wonderful short stay in the beautiful Kingdom in the sky!
# the majority of the roads are drivable without 4x4 (except the Sani Pass). The main roads are paved but there are huge holes so drive at 50 km / h max.
# Very easy to cross borders by car. We did not even need to show the papers of the car. 20 Rands to cross with a car (just over one euro).
# We stayed at the Maliba Lodge and were upgraded to the 5 star room. 50 euros per night for the cheapest room. Restaurant on site, tasty aubergine wraps for 65 rands.
# Tsehlanyane National Park: The hikes are very badly indicated. Good luck ! 50 rands per person to get into the park.
# Semonkong Lodge: an hour walk from Maletsunyane waterfalls. Perfect to discover the waterfalls and the village. There are many activities on offer such as abseiling waterfalls (200 meters!, 1350 rands) or the pub crawl on a donkey. We just visited the village and hiked. 1300 rands a night for two. No heating only a fireplace.